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Brisbane’s heart beating again as workers and shoppers return

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Shunned during the worst of the pandemic, and battered by the recession, Brisbane’s CBD is again showing signs of life.

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Brisbane City Council’s City Planning and Economic Development Committee was today given a briefing on the latest activity reports which Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner described as “extremely encouraging”.

“The Queen Street Mall today is a very different picture than it was in 2020,” Schrinner said.

“In April 2020, foot traffic plummeted to just 20 per cent of pre-COVID levels, but now we see more and more shoppers, workers and visitors returning to the CBD.

“Record numbers flocked to the CBD in December, as foot traffic on the Queen Street Mall peaked at about 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels, exceeding the long-run average in 2020 for the first time since the city went into lockdown earlier that year.

“Currently, even after the State Government enforced three day lockdown and school returning, we are hitting 56 per cent of pre-coronavirus pedestrian traffic in the city.”

Schrinner said it was another sign that Brisbane, and not just the CBD, was “bouncing back” from the COVID-19 restrictions and associated economic downturn.

“In Brisbane, spending with a bank card was also up six per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 with retail spend hitting more than $23 billion, which is an increase of about $1.4 billion,” he said.

“The biggest spenders were in our outer suburbs, which reflects the introduction of State Government restrictions and more people working from home.”

The National Retail Association’s Dominique Lamb said Black Friday and Cyber Monday events at the end of 2020 bolstered the sector, and were followed by a strong Christmas and back-to-school spending.

“We know that the lock-downs and travel restrictions affected consumer confidence throughout last year, but as the economy opens up again, we are seeing people more willing to spend on luxury items, dining out and short breaks close to home,” Lamb said.

Council is also spending to boost economic growth, including $840 million on a variety of projects including Brisbane Metro, Green Bridges and the new Victoria Park. During the pandemic it has also provided fee relief.

Economic Development Chair Krista Adams said the number of Brisbane businesses drawing JobKeeper declined at the end of 2020, and she expected employment to return to pre-COVID levels in March 2022.

“It’s so important for Brisbane residents to shop and explore locally to inject much-needed cash into our economy and support the heath of the city’s businesses, big or small, so we can continue on this positive upwards trend to get our city back into tip-top shape,” Adams said.

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